Changing Teenager’s Behavior-A Word About Curfews–Part I

Changing Teenager’s Behavior-A Word About Curfews
What happens when your teenager is defiant, not remorseful,
not conciliatory and/or not cooperative? Remember the previous
examples from previous articles, when your teen came home a
half-hour late on Friday night, but the next day was somewhat
better behaved? What if your teen came home two hours late,
slept most of the next day, and “blew you off” when confronted?
This is when you rename your child “Darth Teen.”
The establishment of curfew is a very common example of
household conflict. As teenagers get older their curfews change,
getting later and later, until at some point, it disappears.
This is the natural evolution of the “time boundary.” In most
homes, not counting “school nights,” curfew is set for ten or
eleven at night for early teens, twelve’ish or so for later teens,
and “whenever” when the teen technically becomes an adult-usually
at age eighteen. Now, most parents reading this just said to
themselves, “Whoa! These numbers are way off.” The interesting
thing I encounter is that half the parents who just had that
reaction are more conservative relative to the above times, but
half the parents are more liberal. In other words, half the
parent population wants their teens home earlier and half the
parents allow their offspring to wander in (sometimes much) later.
The battle over curfew is usually intense, powered by surging
hormones, newly arrived and very intense social needs, the drive
for independence, and of course, moods, which is the underlying
thread in this discussion. The biggest and first emotion that
usually surfaces is anger. (For more information on this subject,
see Anger Management, Types I and II.) The short
definition of poor anger management has to do with thwarted
expectations powered by out-of-whack attachments. What?
This is when we expect things to be a certain way, and then
reality presents something else. Anger is the natural response
to obstacles. At first we experience frustration, and then as
things fail to change, we “amp up” and usually get mad. Anger
powers our assault on the thing(s) in our way. We become
energized via anger and deal with the resistance. Our investment
in succeeding, or the need to have our expectations met is what
I’m calling attachment. This is when we are really, really set on
having things go our way. Higher attachment fuels greater anger
when expectations are not met. Attachment is to expectation what
gasoline is to fire.
In teen-speak, anger comes when “unreasonable” parents block
their hormone-driven, intense need or drive to do whatever they want,
in this case stay out “all night.” They are really flexing their
independence muscle because they are bigger people now, and
“therefore” can manage their own affairs. When parents challenge
this assumption, natural conflict follows, but the emotional backlash
is big, usually strongly punctuated by anger. Teens think parents
disrespect their newfound status, invalidating them when they are
obviously now “grown up,” generally denying their rights to make
their own decisions. Teens are right in theory but wrong in extent.
Teenagers understand that they have greater abilities, but their
emotions and undeveloped thinking push them into thinking they know
a lot more, can manage themselves better, when usually this is
questionable or wrong. Because they are not as mature as they
think, their emotional reactions to the structure you provide is
over-produced. In common parent parlance, your teen throws a fit.

-Dr. Griggs

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